Patients in New York who qualify for medical marijuana could walk into a dispensary and buy their first legal dose as early as next week.
The state Department of Health launched its online Medical Marijuana Patient Certification and Registration System on Dec. 23 for patients to begin enrolling and be ready when January rolled around.
So far, the department has not released enrollment numbers.
Under the Compassionate Care Act, medical marijuana may be recommended as a treatment to certain patients who suffer from serious conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. To register, the patient first needs certification from a registered physician. Then he or she can use the online system to apply for a registry identification card.
The medication may not be taken out of the state.
Vireo Health Solutions of New York, which is producing medical marijuana at a facility in the Tryon Technology Park in Perth in Fulton County, plans to open its first dispensary in White Plains on Jan. 5.
The company’s other dispensaries, planned for Colonie, Johnson City and Elmhurst, will open later in January.
“We’re working around the clock with our contractors, with local authorities and with the New York State Department of Health to be ready to serve patients,” said Ari Hoffnung, who was named CEO of Vireo Health of New York earlier this month.
The company falls under parent company Vireo Health, which modeled the New York company on Minnesota Medical Solutions. That company has been producing medical marijuana in Minnesota for about a year under regulations similar to New York’s.
Hoffnung did not say exactly how many patients Vireo would be ready to serve on day one, but said he’s “confident that we will be able to serve all of the patients who come to us.”
In November, when the facility was celebrating its first harvest, Vireo Health CEO Kyle Kingsley said he expects the first wave of registered patients to be in the hundreds, maybe a thousand, in January.
“That will grow with time,” Kingsley said then.
The medication is expected to range from under $100 a month to near $1,000 a month depending on the patient, he said.
The Compassionate Care Act requires medical marijuana to be sold at dedicated dispensaries in what Hoffnung called a “seed to sale” model.
“The same entity that plants the seed is the same entity that sells the product, and it can only be done in the dispensaries of the registered organization,” he said. “Pharmacies are not really in the business of selling drugs that the federal government deems to be illegal.”
Vireo Health is one of five licensed companies to produce and sell medical marijuana in New York. Each can open up to four dispensaries around the state.
Once registered with the DOH, Hoffnung said patients will be able to choose where to buy the medicine.
At Vireo’s facility in Fulton County, he said the production team is busy but excited as the launch date nears.
“There’s a lot of excitement but there’s also a focus on getting the job done in a high quality manner,” he said. “We take very seriously the fact that some New Yorkers are in pain and are suffering and we feel like we have a unique opportunity to help alleviate the pain and suffering.”
Reach Gazette reporter Kyle Adams at 723-0811, [email protected] or @kyleradams on Twitter.